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Stimac backs India to overcome ‘big problem’ at Asian Games | Football News

India’s football coach Igor Stimac has had to change his squad list seven times since first announcing it for the Hangzhou Asian Games, with a lack of available players also proving an issue for other nations.

India football team head coach Igor Stimac(AIFF/Twitter)
India football team head coach Igor Stimac(AIFF/Twitter)

The multi-sport event is outside FIFA’s international window so clubs are not compelled to release players, with Afghanistan and Syria pulling out before the Games even started.

That left Hong Kong and Uzbekistan as the only two teams remaining in Group C, so both qualified for the next round without kicking a ball.

Croatian former international defender Stimac, who enjoyed spells with Derby County and West Ham as a player, said it was a “big problem”.

“Twenty-one out of 22 players from my (initial) list are not here today,” he said after they crashed 5-1 to China to start their campaign.

They recovered to beat Bangladesh 1-0 and keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout rounds, despite several players only arriving for that game just before kick-off.

“This (squad) is my seventh list that has been changed and prepared to bring a team over here,” said Stimac, who was part of the Croatian team that finished third at the 1998 World Cup.

“I understand perfectly well how difficult it is because (Indian) clubs are not under pressure to release their players.

“But I’m happy because I see that some teams pulled out at the last minute (as) they couldn’t get enough players, like Afghanistan, like Syria and it’s a big problem for the whole tournament now.”

Indian defender Sandesh Jhingan added: “We still haven’t trained on the pitch yet (as a whole team) and we have played two games.”

Despite the disrupted preparation Stimac urged his team to keep their “chins up”.

“Once we are all together with a full squad we’re going to make problems to anyone in Asia. Believe me,” he said.

They face Myanmar on Sunday.

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